WEST HAM UNITED 0
Arsenal needed a late goal from Alex Song to overcome West Ham and maintain the pressure on leaders Chelsea. The Gunners’ best opportunities in the first half came through the width provided by the overlapping Bacary Sagna.
As the Frenchman teamed up with Samir Nasri to stretch Herita Ilunga out of position, gaps appeared in between Ilunga and the centre-half, and that is where Arsenal attacked. Firstly, Song threaded the ball between Ilunga and Danny Gabbidon for the advancing Sagna, who then cut the ball the back for Cesc Fabregas, timing his run into the area to perfection. The shot was denied by Rob Green at full stretch, but as the half drew to conclusion the Gunners had found the weakness that their composed, passing play had been probing for.
For Arsenal’s dominance in possession, they failed to recreate their incisive first-half openings. With the crowd becoming restless, the Gunners could not break down the determined midfield trio of Valon Behrami, Scott Parker and Mark Noble. The Hammers’ midfield plan of suffocating Fabregas and company when in possession forced Arsenal out of their comfort zone and into a situation where the players were becoming just as desperate for the breakthrough as the fans. Nasri came closest to providing the sigh of relief that the Emirates Stadium was craving. His 35 yard free kick curled beyond the wall and away from Green, only for the ball to crash against the crossbar and out of play.
Theo Walcott was next to try and find his way past the inspired Green after replacing the quiet Andrey Arshavin. Fabregas was afforded a rare moment of space in midfield and the Spaniard instantly looked for the space left by Ilunga having to mark two players. Walcott galloped into the space and his shot had Green beaten for the second time, yet the woodwork came to West Ham’s rescue once more.
As time ran out, Arsenal continued to attack the West Ham back line in an attempt to test the resolve of the league’s bottom side. The passing style that the Gunners are renowned for was replaced by midfielders queuing up to deliver crosses for Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner, who had joined him in attack from the substitute’s bench. Having cut inside to work a crossing opportunity for himself, left-back Gael Clichy finally found a team mate amidst the congestion of players. Clichy’s cross drifted to the far post, where Song gratefully nodded home and the collective sigh of relief around the Emirates may have been louder than the applause that greeted the final whistle.
3 Sagna – 18 Squillaci – 6 Koscielny – 22 Clichy
15 Denilson – 17 Song – 4 Fabregas
8 Nasri – 23 Arshavin
67- 14 Walcott on for 15 Denilson
79- 52 Bendtner on for 23 Arshavin
90- 27 Eboue on for 29 Chamakh